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Do You Have Stuff Teachers Need? Annual ‘Swap Circle’ Is Looking For Volunteers And Donated Supplies

Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange is asking for donations for next week's Teacher Swap Circle event.

Last year's Teacher Swap Circle netted 10 tons of items that helped 500 teachers spruce up their classrooms. (Photo; Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange)
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AUBURN GRESHAM — If you’re the owner of a Chicago-area business with stuff to give away, the Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange can use your help. 

The collective is accepting donations for its fourth Teacher Swap Circle, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 19-23 at the Envision Frick Center, 2124 W. 82nd Place. The Swap Circle will also be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26. 

About 500 teachers showed up to the last swap, hosted before the start of the school year last year, said Barbara Koenen, executive director of Chicago Creative Reuse Circle. And they left with 10 tons of items.

“Lots of teachers spend out of pocket for basic supplies, so this is about helping people who have their boots on the ground and kids who love to learn,” Koenen said. 

The idea for the swap came from a similar program in New York City, Material for the Arts, a nonprofit that’s been helping teachers for more than 40 years, Koenen said. She hopes to eventually expand operations to offer it year-round.

“Almost everyone has stuff they don’t need but don’t want to toss,” Koenen said. “The swap is like a treasure hunt. You never know what’s in the box. The teachers couldn’t believe it was free, they were crying tears of joy.” 

So far, the swap has been fortunate to receive a number of donations from local businesses and groups, including the Chicago Furniture Store, which provided upholstery fabric; Scholastic Books, which donated 13 pallets of books ranging from Pre-K to Young Adult; the Chicago Teachers Union, which gave a pallet of copy paper; and items from Blitsy and the Association of Legal Administrators.

But Koenen stressed that individual donations are just as important. 

“We’ve received a really great donation of art supplies from the family of a woman who passed away,” Koenen said. 

With 80 precent of Chicago Public Schools students living below poverty level, every bit counts. But please, no clothes or beds, said Koenen.

“We aren’t looking for things you’d generally send to Goodwill,”said Koenen. “We’re looking for office supplies, art supplies, items teachers can use to make costumes or create learning environments in their classrooms.”

For more information and a list of “most wanted items,” visit Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange’s website here.

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